The Trademark Clearinghouse (“TMCH”) Sunrise Period for the new gTLD .SUCKS launched March 30, 2015 and is open until May 29, 2015. During this sunrise phase, trademark holders who have registered their trademark registrations with the TMCH will be eligible to register the corresponding .SUCKS domain. The General Availability period opens June 1, 2015, at which time anyone will be able to register a .SUCKS domain.
While .SUCKS is a gTLD meant for gripe sites, what may cause even more justifiable griping among brandowners is that the cost for a .SUCKS domain name registration during the sunrise phase is a very hefty $2,499 (U.S.).
Vox Populi, the registry behind this gTLD, is also pricing names identified as “Premium” names at individual prices. These Premium names will be available during both the Sunrise and General Availability Periods, although a registrant will need to have the matching trademark registered with the TMCH in order to register a Premium name during the Sunrise Period. The registry has also created a list of “Sunrise Premium” domains, which also will be priced at $2,499, and will only be available for registration during the General Availability Period.
Other categories offered by the registry include standard registrations (for any name that falls outside the Premium and Sunrise Premium categories) for a price of $249 and a “consumer advocate subsidized rate” of $10 for any individual who want to register a domain to host a forum discussion website, all available during the General Availability Period.
The Intellectual Property Constituency (“IPC”), represents the interests of intellectual property owners and provides feedback to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) and the Generic Names Supporting Organization (“GNSO”) on policy issues relating to management of the domain name system. The IPC, by a letter dated March 27, 2015, asked ICANN to halt the rollout of the .SUCKS domain. In its letter to ICANN, the IPC stated its concern that the pricing for .SUCKS domains is “predatory”. The IPC also indicated in its letter that under the registry agreement between Vox Populi and ICANN, Vox Populi will pay ICANN a one-time fixed “registry access fee” $100,000 (U.S.) and a “registry administration fee” of $1.00 (U.S.) for the first 900,000 transactions. Under this provision, ICANN will receive $1 million. Apparently, this provision is not in registry agreements between ICANN and other registries. Despite the IPC’s request, the launch of .SUCKS rolled out on March 30, 2015.
The $2,499 price of registration during the TMCH Sunrise Period may cause brandowners to question whether it is worthwhile to register a .SUCKS domain with their core or other brands, particularly given the availability of various mechanisms for brandowners to seize domains that infringe on their trademark rights. There is, however, speculation about whether a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (“UDRP”) or Uniform Rapid Suspension System (“URS”) complaint against .SUCKS domain names containing trademarks will be successful. If a website associated with a .SUCKS domain contains criticism or other speech that is considered to be in the category of free speech, it may be seen as fair use of the domain, which generally constitutes a valid defence to a UDRP or URS proceeding. As UDRP panels consider all the facts of a given case, including the content of the site that a particular domain resolves to, it will remain to be seen how .SUCKS UDRP and URS complaints will be decided. From now until the close of the Sunrise Period on May 29, 2015, brandowners should carefully consider the pros and cons of a .SUCKS domain registration with their core or other brands.